Fallen Flags, The Classic American Railroad

The term "Fallen Flags" describes those railroads whose corporate names have been dissolved through merger, bankruptcy, or liquidation. At one time the United States boasted nearly 140 Class I's (According to the Association of American Railroads, prior to 1956 this defined a carrier which earned at least $1 million in annual operating revenue.  It has been revised several times throughout the years.).  Today, many of these classic railroads are but a memory. The older folks reading this can remember those bygone days when corporations like the legendary Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway, the mighty Pennsylvania Railroad, and prosperous Southern Railway all served America.  And, of course, who can forget our country’s first common carrier, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, which survived for 160 years before disappearing into CSX Transportation in 1987.  There are many areas of the industry to study, ranging from locomotives to streamliners.  However, few remain as popular, or as enjoyable, as the venerable "fallen flag."  They defined the regions they served while providing invaluable transportation needs for local communities.

Most of the fallen flags remembered today were derived from systems originally built during the 19th century.  Some railroads, such as our country's first common-carrier, maintained their original name for well over a century while others were brought about through either consolidation or reorganization.  The railroad may have been born in England but it quickly caught on the United States.   Following the early chartering of the B&O, Mohawk & Hudson, South Carolina Canal & Railroad Company, and others by 1835 the fledgling country had 1,000 miles of track in operation according to the book "Railroads In The Days Of Steam," published by the editors of American Heritage.  In addition, as John Stover's title, "The Routledge Historical Atlas Of The American Railroads," points out expansion was rapid; of the twenty-six states in the Union by 1840 only four did not contain a single mile of track (Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, and Vermont).  Through 1860 there had already been more than $1 billion invested in in the industry (interestingly, $200 million of this total came via English or European interests), which then boasted 31,246 miles in service.

Fallen Flags Of The Northeast

Railway Express Agency, Providing Shipping By Rail (The REA was not an operating railroad but was an integral part of the industry during the "golden age" when these now-fallen flags were still operating.) 

The "Alphabet Route" Including The NKP/W&LE/P&WV/WM/Reading/CNJ/L&HR/New Haven 

Baltimore & Ohio, "Linking 13 Great States With The Nation" 

Bangor & Aroostook, "Serving Northern Maine"

Bessemer & Lake Erie, "The Bessemer Route"

Boston & Maine, "Route Of The Minute Man" 

Buffalo Creek & Gauley, West Virginia's Fabled Short Line

Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh, "Safety & Service"

Canadian National, "The People's Railway" (This railroad is still operating, it is placed here because of its long and storied history.) 

Canadian Pacific, "Spans The World" (This railroad is still operating, it is placed here because of its long and storied history.) 

Central Railroad of New Jersey, "The Big Little Railroad"

Central Vermont, "The Green Mountain Route" 

Chesapeake & Ohio, "George Washington's Railroad" 

Chessie System: Comprising The B&O, C&O, And WM 

Consolidated Rail Corporation, "Conrail" 

Delaware & Hudson, "The Bridge Line" 

Delaware, Lackawanna & Western, "The Route Of Phoebe Snow"

Erie Railroad, "Serving The Heart Of Industrial America" 

Erie Lackawanna, "The Friendly Service Route" 

Lehigh & Hudson River, "The Bridge Route"

Lehigh & New England, "Industry's Freight Route" 

Lehigh Valley, "Route Of The Black Diamond" 

Long Island Rail Road, "Route Of The Dashing Commuter" (This railroad is still operating but is placed here because of its historical significance.) 

Maine Central, "The Pine Tree Route" 

Maryland & Pennsylvania, "The Famous Ma & Pa" 

Monongahela Railway, "The Biggest Little Coal Carrier" 

New York Central System, "The Water Level Route" 

New York, New Haven & Hartford, "The Friendly New Haven Railroad" 

New York, Ontario & Western, "Route Of The Mountaineer"

Pennsylvania Railroad, "The Standard Railroad Of The World" 

Penn Central Transportation Company, "High Speed Service" 

Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines, Providing Commuter Service Across Southern New Jersey 

Pittsburgh & Lake Erie "The Little Giant" 

Pittsburgh & West Virginia "The Hi-Line" 

Reading Lines, "Bee Line Service" 

Rutland Railroad, "The Green Mountain Gateway" 

West Virginia Northern, Mountain State Coal Hauler 

Western Maryland, "The Fast Freight Line" 

The growth only continued after the Civil War as promoters pushed ribbons of rail westward, highlighted by the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in May of 1869.  Construction quickened after this momentous event and peaked in the 1880's.  During that decade, as historian H. Roger Grant notes in his book, "The Corn Belt Route: A History Of The Chicago Great Western Railroad Company," the national network grew from 93,267 to 163,597 miles!  It was the single greatest period of expansion.  The latter 19th century witnessed many fallen flags brought together while others, such as the Western Maryland and Virginian Railway, completed their systems in the early 1900's.  The classic American railroad as we best remember it survived until the 1970's, a decade that reached a crescendo of bankruptcies and mergers.  The government's severe regulations, dating back to the early 20th century, were largely to blame along with the railroads' difficulty in reducing crew sizes (even after technological advancements, including diesel locomotives, wireless radio, and computerization made such possible).  These issues were partially self-inflicted, a result of executive greed and hubris during the 19th century that led to much of the federal oversight.

While the "Golden Age" officially extended from the 1880's until the Great Depression, ask most railfans the single greatest period and many would point to immediate post-World War II era, through the 1960's.  During this time, although in decline, the industry was still generally profitable while it made the switch from steam to diesel-electric technology.  In addition, numerous, vibrant paint schemes adorned first-generation diesels, built by the five major manufacturers (Electro-Motive, American Locomotive, Fairbanks-Morse, Baldwin, and General Electric).  With a plethora of different emblems roaming the rails it was quite an era for anyone interested in trains.  Because these many systems served a particular region it was not uncommon for local communities to call a railroad their own.  Examples here include the New York Central, Reading, New Haven, Western Pacific, Atlantic Coast Line, Missouri Pacific, and the list goes on of carriers serving either a block of states or specific area.   Following the mega-merger movement this is no longer the case as a single railroad can now extend from New York to Chicago or link San Francisco with St. Louis.

Fallen Flags Of The Southeast

Atlantic Coast Line, "Standard Railroad Of The South"

Central of Georgia, "The Right Way" 

Clinchfield Railroad, "Quick Service-Short Route" 

Family Lines System 

Florida East Coast, "Speedway To Sunshine" (This railroad is still operating, it is placed here because of its long and storied history.) 

Gulf, Mobile & Ohio, "The Rebel Route"

Interstate Railroad, Southwestern Virginia's Coal-Hauler 

Louisville & Nashville, "The Old Reliable"

Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis, "The Dixie Line"

Norfolk & Western, "Precision Transportation"

Norfolk, Franklin & Danville, Successor To The Atlantic & Danville

Original Norfolk Southern, "East Carolina Dispatch"

Shamrock Coal Company's, "Oneida & Western" 

Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac, "Linking North & South" 

Seaboard Air Line, "Through The Heart Of The South"

Seaboard Coast Line, "We're Pulling For You"

Southern Railway, "Look Ahead - Look South" 

Tennessee, Alabama & Georgia Railway, "The TAG Route" 

Tennessee Central Railway, "The Nashville Route" 

Virginian Railway, Hauling Black Diamonds 

The West Point Route:  The Georgia Railroad/Atlanta & West Point/Western Railway Of Alabama 

Through the many mergers over the years not every classic system has disappeared.  The two most notable include Union Pacific and Kansas City Southern; the former has been an American institution for generations.  UP recognized the need to expand and grow as the merger movement picked up adding the Western Pacific, Missouri Pacific, Chicago & North Western, Rio Grande, Missouri-Kansas-Texas, and Southern Pacific to its network from the 1980's through mid-1990's.  In addition, the much smaller Kansas City Southern has, itself, somehow survived.  For many years this regional pike operated a system of less than 1,000 miles connecting Kansas City with the Gulf Coast.   It then rapidly grew during the 1990's as it expanded north into St. Louis and Illinois and south into Mexico.  Today, it remains the smallest Class I.  There are many other lesser known railroads which still carry on; names like the Ann Arbor, Florida East Coast, Susquehanna, Escanaba & Lake Superior, Iowa Traction, Louisiana & North Western, and others.

Fallen Flags Of The Midwest

Akron, Canton & Youngstown, "Ohio's Road Of Service"

Algoma Central Railway, "The Agawa Canyon Route" 

Belt Railway of Chicago, The Windy City's Noted Belt Road (This railroad is not fit under the "fallen flags' heading but is placed here due to its historical significance.) 

Chicago, Aurora & Elgin, "The Roarin' Elgin"

Chicago, Burlington & Quincy, "Everywhere West"

Chicago & Eastern Illinois, "Speed-Efficiency-Service"

Chicago & Illinois Midland, Central Illinois's Coal Road 

Chicago & North Western, "Route Of The '400'"

Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific, "Route Of The Rockets"

Chicago & Western Indiana, Serving Dearborn Station 

Chicago Great Western, "The Corn Belt Route" 

Chicago, South Shore & South Bend, "The South Shore Line" (This railroad is still operating but is placed here because of its historical significance.) 

Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern, Midwestern Regional 

Detroit & Mackinac Railway, "The Turtle Line"

Detroit, Toledo & Ironton, "We Have The Connections"

Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range, "The Missabe Road" 

Duluth, Winnipeg & Pacific, "Delivered With Pride"

Elgin, Joliet & Eastern, "The Chicago Outer Belt"

Gateway Western Railway, Operating The Former Chicago & Alton 

Green Bay & Western, "The Green Bay Route" 

Grand Trunk Western, "The Good Track Road" 

Illinois Central, "The Main Line Of Mid-America" 

Illinois Terminal, "The Road Of Personalized Services" 

Indiana Harbor Belt, "Connects With All Chicago Railroads" (This railroad is still operating, it is placed here because of its long and storied history.) 

Iowa, Chicago & Eastern, A Division Of The DM&E

Kansas City Southern, "Route Of The Southern Belle" (This railroad is still operating, it is placed here because of its long and storied history.) 

Lake Superior & Ishpeming, Upper Peninsula Ore Hauler (This railroad is still operating but placed here because of its historical significance.) 

Minneapolis & St. Louis, "The Peoria Gateway" 

Minneapolis, Northfield & Southern, "The Dan Patch Line" 

Chicago, Indianapolis & Louisville (Monon), "The Hoosier Line" 

New York, Chicago & St. Louis (Nickel Plate Road), "High Speed Service" 

Pere Marquette Railway, Michigan's Own Road 

Minneapolis, St. Paul & Sault Ste. Marie, "The Soo Line" 

St. Louis Southwestern, "The Cotton Belt Route" 

St. Louis-San Francisco Railway, "Ship It On The Frisco!" 

Toledo, Peoria & Western, "Links East And West" (Despite still being in operation the original TP&W is technically one of the many fallen flags presented here since it disappeared into the Santa Fe 1983. The company was reborn in 1988.) 

Wabash, "Follow The Flag" 

Wisconsin Central Railway, Reclaiming Its Heritage



Here within this page you will find information on some of the best remembered fallen flags, each described in much more detail, broken down into the territory where they operated.   Since the website debuted I have finally had the chance to feature many of these although I realize that some are still omitted. As time allows, I will try to cover most of these companies.  As it currently stands there are already more than 100 such systems highlighted.  You may notice that Canadian National and Canadian Pacific are now included in the website. After giving it much thought the two lines have played too significant a role in our nation's railroad history, especially in its current and future state, to be left out and unmentioned.  For instance several are now of Canadian ownership/control such as the Soo Line (and indirectly the Milwaukee Road through the Soo's takeover by CP), Delaware & Hudson (today, partially owned by Norfolk Southern), Illinois Central, Grand Trunk Western, Central Vermont, and the Duluth, Winnipeg & Pacific Railway.

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